Racing: O'Brien's Eagle Mountain on Derby flight path

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The Independent Online

The excellent credentials displayed by Teofilo at Newmarket a week ago notwithstanding, and with the greatest respect to the countless progressive maiden winners being carefully tucked away in winter quarters and shielded from the eyes of the Godolphin headhunters, the Racing Post Trophy is the juvenile race to look at with Derbys in mind.

In recent years the mile contest has produced three Epsom victors (Motivator, High Chaparral and Benny The Dip), two runners-up (King's Theatre and The Great Gatsby), a third (Dylan Thomas) plus two winners at Chantilly (Celtic Swing and Holding Court) and one at the Curragh (Dylan Thomas).

So, for a steer towards next season's elite middle-distance Classic form - whatever its ultimately perceived level when judged from an historical perspective - look no further. Assuming the race takes place, of course; following the freak Thursday night downpour that left standing water on the track and prompted the abandonment of yesterday's Newbury card, there will be an inspection at the Berkshire course at 7.30 this morning.

This afternoon's field of 14 is the largest-ever for the 46th running of the last top-level event of the domestic programme. Four of them hail from the yard with the best recent record and one of them, the likely favourite Eagle Mountain, is treading a familiar road after running away with the Beresford Stakes at the Curragh 13 days ago.

Aidan O'Brien has won four of the last nine runnings of the Racing Post Trophy, with Brian Boru four years ago, High Chaparral the year before that, Aristotle in 1999 and Saratoga Springs in 1997. Of his four Beresford winners to compete at Doncaster, Saratoga Springs won both races and three finished runner-up in the second: Lermontov (to Aristotle), Castle Gandolfo (to High Chaparral) and Albert Hall, to Motivator two years ago. Brian Boru had chased home Alamshar in the Irish race.

So the red route from Co Tipperary is not foolproof, but it may be today. Eagle Mountain (Newbury, 3.15) gave Teofilo a terrible fright at the Curragh, going down by only a head, before very nearly catching Vital Equine in another seven furlong contest, the Champagne Stakes at York. In the Beresford he showed his appreciation of being stepped up to a mile, and also that the sort of testing ground he will encounter today holds no fears.

O'Brien has three times had a one-two in this race (Powercourt ran second to Brian Boru) and Red Rock Canyon, though still a maiden, looks the next likeliest of the Ballydoyle quartet. The colt, only a neck behind Teofilo when both made their debuts, is a half-brother, out of Oaks winner Imagine, to ill-fated Horatio Nelson. Both he and Eagle Mountain and indeed their stablemate Malacara, are running for the usual Coolmore stallion agenda as well as glory on the day. All three are from the first crop of Rock Of Gibraltar, and a Group One success at the first time of asking looks good on a young stallion's cv.

The ability to gallop in a bog is going to be crucial this afternoon and another who has already shown he can is Regime, from the Michael Bell stable that supplied Motivator. On his last run the son of Golan proved, in retrospect, to have been flying particularly high; when he took second spot in a valuable sales-related race at the Curragh, he had one top filly, Miss Beatrix, in front and another, Finsceal Beo, a few places behind.

But the best of the home side may prove to be the Barry Hills-trained Thousand Words, who put his disappointing performance in the Champagne Stakes behind him with a smooth success on soft ground at Newmarket three weeks ago.

By another up-and-coming young stallion, Dansili, the Khaled Abdullah colour-bearer is another who will benefit from a test of stamina.

With the main event transferred from its traditional home Doncaster, where the builders are in, Newbury's own end-of-term features take second billing. The Horris Hill Stakes is not a race that usually impacts significantly on the greater scheme of things, but Desert Dew (2.05) and Mythical Kid both look youngsters with a future.

The St Simon Stakes presents Dragon Dancer with yet another opportunity to shed his dread "best-maiden-in-training" tag, but yet again he may find one or two too good, principally, and perhaps fairly insultingly, the progressive bumper winner Alfie Flits (2.40).

Chris McGrath

Nap: Eagle Mountain (Newbury 3.15)

NB: Massini's Maguire (Chepstow 1.25)

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